Filling in the Missing Pieces


Mother: Have you learned about the Holocaust in school?

Son: Yeah, of course. We talked about it a lot. We read books and watched movies.

Mother: Did they talk about the Holodomor too?

Son: What’s that?

A typical response. As I write this, the computer’s spell checker has likewise never heard of the Holodomor, that rarely mentioned episode of Ukranian history in which up to ten million died of deliberately imposed starvation or were exiled to Russia’s infamous gulags. Why the historical blank? In a grossly oversimplified nutshell, our educational system peddles but one socially accepted narrative and all else falls by the wayside. It is this way from noon naps to doctoral dissertations with much left out in between.

Year after year earning a history degree, a master’s degree, even beyond, and I had never heard of the Holodmor either. I never knew there had been such a high percentage of white slaves in the American colonies. I never knew the Bolsheviks were largely Jewish. No, none of this was ever mentioned in the many, many classrooms I’d sat in day after day. And so, the question looms ever larger: Why the historical blank?

Perhaps more to the point is this question: Why have the academics betrayed us? These are the brave souls meant to sharpen humanity’s most valuable weapon, our minds, and yet they haven’t sharpened a thing for decades now. They can’t for they are not allowed to be sharp, to challenge accepted views, or to be creative. Consider the divide between academic and non-academic writers.

“Many [professors] are now troubled by ‘a writer who works up his own notions and signs his own name.’ For the literary man in college…the literary man [outside] presents himself as the distant inhabitant of another intellectual world; and he figures as the final installment of the body of material to be studied.”[1]

The academic has no ideas of his own; he regurgitates the thoughts of others. We must abandon this false smith when we discover the painful truth that today’s academics were all conceived in 1984 and they’ve no intention of sharpening a damn thing. Oh no! It’s their state sanctioned task not only to piss on our blades and dull them to utter uselessness but to keep us from battle, pretending there’s no war being fought. There is, and the losses are staggering, for the territory is your mind. The academic has been compromised.

Likewise, the educator has scarcely been educated. Here is a typical university scenario: Most students only read assigned texts. They stay well within the confines of the class discussion. Most won’t give any of it a second thought until forced to dredge it up in an assignment, and they’ll be prompted in that essay. They’ll turn a trite phrase or two just to make the required word count. They’ll curb any urge to creativity when churning out one formulaic assignment after another because they’ll be reprimanded for daring to write outside the box. Thoroughly indoctrinated, perhaps designated a doctor, they’ll then take their magic pieces of paper and work day after identical day to maintain a false prestige, a meaningless existence, a “respectable” lifestyle. If they’re successful, they’ll publish and not perish even as they forge another false generation. If they don’t tow the line, they may never receive tenure and piles of applicants are eagerly waiting to take their coveted place.

In the above scenario, can true education take place? No. Most academics fall in line without question; for most have had the questions programmed out of them. When that celebrated professor gets home in the evenings, she’ll probably grade a stack of papers, making sure the young writers are being properly programmed as well. Click, click, click. Gears in a machine. This is life for most of us. It’s time to ask why. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. Must we continue to creep through this pettiness day after day? Must we continue this way to the last syllable of recorded time? No, and no, and no.

There are historical blanks in our education because we are educated to fit a certain mold. If we knew those who play the victim card also had stacks of villain cards tucked up their tailored sleeves, we may no longer listen to their lamentations. If we knew those most often accused of villainy had as many scars on their backs as our media-favored downtrodden, we may no longer feel such guilt. If we knew, we may no longer fall in line.

And so there are blanks, so many blanks. What is the Holodomor? Ten million souls, erased.

[1] Jacoby, Russel.  The Last of the Intellectuals.: American Culture in the Age of Academe.  Basic Books, NY, NY:  1987.

Rachel Summers